As the pressure mounts against the SCO Group and its crusade to protect what it sees as the violation of its intellectual property rights, Novell Inc.—which itself once owned the rights to Unix—on Wednesday publicly challenged SCOs assertion that it owns the copyrights and patents to Unix System V.
In a letter to SCO CE0 Darl McBride, Novell CEO Jack Messman points out that the asset purchase agreement entered into between Novell and SCO in 1995 did not transfer these rights to SCO. Novell also asked SCO to back up its assertion that certain Unix System V code has been copied into Linux.
“To Novells knowledge, the 1995 agreement governing SCOs purchase of Unix from Novell does not convey to SCO the associated copyrights. We believe it unlikely that SCO can demonstrate that it has any ownership interest whatsoever in those copyrights. Apparently you share this view, since over the last few months you have repeatedly asked Novell to transfer the copyrights to SCO, requests that Novell has rejected,” Messman said in the letter.
But SCO disputed these claims in a statement released on Wednesday, in which the Lindon, Utah-based firm maintained that it owns the contract rights to the Unix operating system. “SCO has the contractual right to prevent improper donations of Unix code, methods or concepts into Linux by any Unix vendor.
“Copyrights and patents are protection against strangers. Contracts are what you use against parties you have relationships with. From a legal standpoint, contracts end up being far stronger than anything you could do with copyrights.
“SCOs lawsuit against IBM does not involve patents or copyrights. SCOs complaint specifically alleges breach of contract, and SCO intends to protect and enforce all of the contracts that the company has with more than 6,000 licensees. We formed SCOsource in January 2003 to enforce our Unix rights and we intend to aggressively continue in this successful path of operation,” the company said.
In his letter, Novells Messman added that now is the time for SCO to substantiate its claims or “recant the sweeping and unsupported allegation made in your [recent] letter [to 1,500 global CEOs]. Absent such action, it will be apparent to all that SCOs true intent is to sow fear, uncertainty, and doubt about Linux in order to extort payments from Linux distributors and users,” he said.
Messman also stressed Novells commitment to Linux, having recently announced an upcoming NetWare version based on the Linux kernel, as well as collaboration and resource management solutions for Linux.
“Put simply, Novell is an ardent supporter of Linux and the open source development community. This support will increase over time,” he said.
Bruce Perens, a leading open-source advocate, said on Wednesday that SCOs response to Novell implicitly acknowledged that SCO did not own the Unix copyright.
“SCO claims that their action against IBM is a contract action, not a copyright law action. This might allow SCO to enforce some rights against companies that have already purchased licenses from SCO, but potentially lets the GNU/Linux crowd off the hook.
“Presumably, Novell could license IBM and the Linux developers if any concrete evidence of infringement came up and SCO continued to obstinately push the issue. Not that SCO had shown any evidence to prove its accusations, anyway,” he said.
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